While there are some differences in the symptoms of those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is one thing for sure: the symptoms of PTSD often affect families as well as those suffering from the disorder. The symptoms of PTSD often spill over onto loved ones, and often those most affected are family caregivers, such as wives, husbands, mothers and fathers.
Relationships With Those Who Suffer From PTSD
While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can happen to anyone, it is most often associated with veterans. Called by various names throughout history, such as “Shell Shock” in the First World War, to “Combat Fatigue” in the Second, psychologists and doctors have gotten better at treating what we now call PTSD.
We can’t stress this enough— the vast majority of people who have PTSD can be helped. PTSD, as well as associated conditions like alcoholism and drug abuse, can be treated. Oftentimes, these diseases take professional help to diagnose and treat.
If you have a loved one who has PTSD, it can be challenging to know how to help. Read on for how PTSD can affect relationships, and how you can help your loved one who has PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD As Manifested In Relationships
While the symptoms of PTSD in individuals are well known, they can also have effects on relationships. PTSD will manifest in different ways in close relationships dependent on the sufferer’s symptoms and other factors.
Symptoms and hardships that might appear in relationships with those who have PTSD include:
- Increased mistrust in forming relationships and with ongoing relationships
- Having feelings that others “just can’t understand what I’ve been through”
- Unusual amounts of anger, often explosive, or sadness, often extremely deep
- A Feeling of anxiety or anxiousness in one’s current relationship
- Reduced ability for your veteran to problem solve
- Reduced ability to communicate with partners and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in things the vet once found joyful
- Trouble sleeping and nightmares or night terrors
- Changes in mood from before, such as hypervigilance or anxiety
- Drinking and drug problems (for as many as 3/4ths of people experiencing PTSD develop a problem with drugs or alcohol)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or hardships in your relationship with someone who has PTSD, know first that these are facets of the disease. They can be hard to experience, because it feels bad when your partner pushes you away, gets angry with you seemingly for no reason, or has a reduced ability to communicate. But knowing these are symptoms of a disease and not your partner can be helpful in dealing with your own feelings.
How To Help A Veteran With PTSD
Below, we’ve gathered some suggestions on how to help your vet who is experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Perhaps the most important factor is to lead with compassion. Think about how you might like to be treated during the worst day of your life, and lead with love. Remember that your partner cannot help having PTSD, they almost certainly don’t like feeling this way, and you can be helpful by being caring and careful.
Encourage Your Partner To Talk About Their Feelings
Many sufferers of PTSD don’t want to talk about their feelings. The feelings they are having are difficult, painful, and there can be shame involved with feeling these things. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a weakness, it is a disease. It can be helped by talking, both with a specialist and with close partners and friends. Ask your partner about their feelings and get them to try to communicate. If they don’t want to speak about them don’t push, but try to keep the lines of communication open.
Try Not To Place Blame On Your Partner
Blame can push people away. These strong feelings your partner may be experiencing— which may manifest in things that are hurtful to you— are not your veteran’s fault. They are symptoms. Putting blame on your loved one for these symptoms is like putting blame on someone with the flu for coughing or sneezing. While these symptoms can be much more hurtful than a cough, it can be helpful to remember these are not your partner but a facet of the disease.
Help Your Partner To Have Daily Routines
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can adversely affect daily routines. Sufferers from PTSD can experience changes in eating and sleeping habits, and attempting to stick to a routine can be positive for them. You can help create this routine by having your own and helping your partner remember to do the things of daily life like eating properly, maintaining hygiene, and a good sleep schedule.
Help Your Partner Avoid Triggers
Acute symptoms of PTSD are often caused by “triggers” or things that remind your partner of the traumatic event they experienced. The first step in helping your partner avoid these triggers is to know what they are. If fireworks, for example, are a trigger, you can help your partner avoid them or mitigate the effects if they are unavoidable by providing a quiet space and soothing music for example.
Help YourPartner To Get Help
PTSD and related diseases like alcoholism or drug use usually can’t be treated alone. You can help your partner get help by understanding what treatment options are available in your area, what monetary and insurance options are at your disposal, and understanding the disease itself.
Remember All Feelings Are Valid
The feelings your partner are experiencing are very real. Although they can be hurtful to you, you must understand they are valid to those suffering from PTSD. On the other hand, the feelings of hurt or anger or sadness you might be experiencing are equally as valid.
Get Drug And Alcohol Treatment For Veterans With PTSD
If your loved one— especially a veteran— is experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and associated conditions like alcoholism and drug abuse or addiction give us a call at (508) 680-0115. These are treatable diseases, and we’re more than happy to help, especially for those who have bravely served our country.